After seeing all the boxcars in Le Mars, I got thinking about starting to build out the roster for the layout. This last weekend at Trainfest was a good time to start hunting. While hanging out in the Spring Creek Model Trains booth, promoting our Iowa Scaled Engineering products, I took some time to browse through the various boxcar models available. I found several that looked right, but held off purchasing on Saturday to go do some research that night.
While an hour in the evening is not nearly enough to become an expert on everything boxcars, I did get a rough idea from the Le Mars switch lists of which car types would be close. On Sunday at the show, it turned out the cars I was eyeing the day before had already been sold. This wasn’t a bad thing in the end, though, as it provided an opportunity to do a little more research.
My goal with this layout is not 100% prototype accuracy. Instead, prototype plausibility is the guiding principle. In that sense, a car doesn’t have to have appeared in the real Le Mars to be on the layout. If I find one that has, great, but as long as it is of a similar car type and could plausibly serve an industry there, that’s fine.
Fortunately, I had the opportunity to get my hands on some switch lists from the real Le Mars from June 2022. Taking these lists and cross referencing to pictures in www.rrpicturearchives.net provided a good cross section of the car types that serve Le Mars, specifically the packaging company getting cars and cars of fiber board. While I couldn’t find pictures of all the cars, there were enough to be useful. The boxcars from these lists are below with the selected photos that have been found:
TTX (not surprisingly) dominates the mix, but there are a few older style cars mixed into the fleet. Fortunately, that adds some variety and interest, and lets me (plausibly) veer off a bit and include some oddball cars in the mix. That Southern waffle side comes to mind…
Many boxcars have been made in HO-scale over the years. Of those, many are no longer roaming the rails, having been scrapped and/or reached their interchange expiration date. Including any of those stretches the limits of plausibility, so I wanted to filter and focus on the cars that are/could still be roaming around today.
To start that process, Spring Creek sent me a list of all the Athearn 60′ Berwick and 60′ Gunderson boxcars they had in stock. From there, I added the Rapido 50′ PC&F B-100-40 cars listed on the Spring Creek website, the ExactRail FMC 5327 boxcars from the ExactRail website, and the upcoming ExactRail Trinity 6275 cars available for pre-order. While I missed some of the Athearn cars that have been produced in the past, I figured those are hit & miss on finding them, so I would limit it to what was in stock at Spring Creek for the moment. Even so, I still had 143 models to consider but if this didn’t result in enough plausible cars, then I can always expand the search later.
From this list of cars, I then searched www.rrpicturearchives.net for photos of each one. Of those that had photos, the year of the latest photo was noted. I somewhat arbitrarily defined a cutoff date of 2020 or later and filtered the list down to just those cars. In other words, if a photo had not been taken of the car in 2020 or later, it was not considered for inclusion in the layout fleet. I’m sure this excludes some cars that really are still roaming around today, but without proof it becomes a little more of a stretch. Again, I can always expand the search later if needed.
This list has now become an informal shipping list. I’ll get a few now, and this list will provide a guide for future shows when browsing the tables of new and slightly used stuff for sale. Also, somewhat by chance, the mix of cars seems about right for Le Mars based on the switch lists and aerial photos. A lot of TTX, but some shortline and other “non-yellow” cars, too.